Polo Grounds

Polo Grounds

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Predictions for the 2017 season

Last year I managed to get exactly 50% of my predictions correct, including all 5 of the NL play-off teams, and the prediction that Didi Gregorius would hit more home runs than A-Rod. I also said Marcus Stroman would win the AL Cy Young, and that Byron Buxton would breakout and become a star. Well, can't win them all. I'll do my best to explain my thoughts behind the 15 predictions listed below, but as you all know, there's a lot of guess work and luck (either good or bad) that goes into getting these things right or wrong. Hope you enjoy!

 1. Matt Boyd wins 12+ games

The Tigers announced today that Anibal Sanchez will start the season out in the bullpen, giving Matt Boyd the 5th starter spot in the rotation. Boyd will look to build off of his very solid second half last year, and the Tigers offense should give him a realistic shot at double digit wins. I'd expect something like 13-7 with an ERA around 4.00 if he stays in the rotation all season.

2. Ben Revere steals 30+ bases

This is based primarily on the fact that Cameron Maybin is wildly injury prone, and any time he misses will give Revere more chances get on base, and to steal. He only hit .217 last year, but with a spectacularly low .238 BABIP, nearly 100 points lower than his career average. Assuming that regresses, Revere should hit closer to .280 or so, and with regular at-bats should be a lock to steal 30 this year.

3. Keon Broxton finishes 20/20

Broxton hit 9 home runs with 23 steals in only 75 games last year, so it's hardly crazy to predict 20 steals again, and 11 more home runs seems feasible as well. Broxton is still very young, but he struck out in 36% of his at-bats last year. If he can limit that, he has the tools to be a 20/20 guy not just next year, but for many years to come.

4. Kevin Kiermaier finishes with a WAR above 8.0

Going off of baseball-reference, Kiermaier put up a 7.3 WAR in 2015 in a full season, and a 5.5 WAR in only 105 games last year. Kiermaier's 7.3 WAR season came with an OBP less than .300 and an OPS+ of only 99, so assuming he even becomes a slightly above average hitter, Kiermaier should accrue a WAR over 8. His high WAR comes from his spectacular CF defense primarily, but I wouldn't be surprised to see Kiermaier with 15+ home runs and 25+ steals this season as well.

5. Adrian Beltre passes Dave Winfield in home runs and hits

Beltre needs 20 home runs and 168 hits to tie Dave Winfield in those categories. Over his last four years Beltre has averaged 179 hits and 25 home runs. So if he can stay healthy, I think both those numbers are not only attainable, but likely. The question is health, but Beltre has managed to avoid lengthy DL stints throughout his career, so I'm confident he can do so for one more year.

6. Nolan Arenado is the NL MVP

Arenado should build off his incredible 41 home run, 133 RBI season last year. He's still only 25, and I believe will continue to be one of the best players in baseball for years to come.

7. Mookie Betts is the AL MVP 

Betts will have to beat out Mike Trout and Jose Altuve, but as a player capable of a 30/30 season who plays great defense and scores tons of runs, I'll take my chances on him finishing the season with some hardware.

8. Marcus Stroman finishes top-5 in Cy Young voting

Marcus Stroman had a really bad first half last season. But he was much better in the second half. After a dominating performance in the WBC, I'm inclined to believe that Stroman is more like the pitcher he was in his first 1.5 years (and second half last year) than the pitcher he was early in 2016. If he can return to that form, he's a top 5 pitcher in the American League.

9. The Red Sox don't have a top-10 rotation in the league

Chris Sale goes from a pitcher friendly park to Fenway, and has to deal with the Boston media. Considering his already frail emotional state, that seems troublesome to me. Price is hurt and may not be the same pitcher we are used to seeing. Porcello's numbers were a lot better than he was last year, and he will absolutely regress back to his normal, high 3.00 ERA self. E-Rod and Pomeranz are fine capable back-end starters, nothing more. Steven Wright is an inconsistent knuckleballer. I don't have a lot of faith in this rotation, especially with most of their games in the AL East.

10. Greg Bird hits more home runs than both Matt Holliday and Cris Carter

Not combined, although that would be epic. I think Holliday and Carter form a semi-platoon at DH and Bird gets the vast majority of the at-bats at 1B, with Carter occasionally filling in for him. I think Bird will hit around 25 home runs this year, with the potential for 30. Holliday will get his 20 or so, but I doubt much more. And Carter's playing time will severely limit him. Barring injuries, Bird is the guy you want out of this 1B/DH situation in NY.

11. Hanley Ramirez has 30/100 with 10 steals

Hitting fourth in the line-up will be great for Hanley, and switching to a full-time DH (which appears likely) will help him stay healthy and productive all season long. A healthy Hanley put up 30 home runs, 111 RBI and 9 steals last year, so a repeat performance hardly seems outrageous, providing health and that he runs enough to grab double digit bags.

12. AL play-off teams: Rangers, Indians, Red Sox: Astros and Yankees

Nothing too crazy here. Astros are a bit of a stretch because their pitching is so unpredictable, but I think if they put it together they can challenge for that wild card spot with ease. Mariners and Tigers, my two teams, are on the outside looking in yet again this year.

13. NL play-off teams: Dodgers, Cubs, Nationals: Giants and Mets

Picking only one NL Central team feels weird, but I don't see the Cardinals or Pirates being better than either the Mets or Giants this year. Depends on health for NYM, but if they can stay healthy they should squeak into that wildcard spot. 

14. World Series: Rangers vs. Cubs

Rangers pitching is concerning behind Hamels and Darvish, but if they are hitting well I could see them pulling off a trade for another arm (Quintana maybe?) and making a run. Their farm system is already pretty rough after the Lucroy trade, so they may have to get creative, but I think this is their last chance, so I think they'll go all in.

Cubs are basically an all-star team, and with Maddon as their manager I think they'll be back in the WS again.

15. Cubs don't want to wait another 108 years for this one, win again. Become hated

I should say become more hated. People love an underdog, until they aren't. The fact that I'm a Gonzaga fan/alum is certainly not factored into that statement.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Analyzing the Tigers abysmal 2003..........draft?

On June 3rd, 2003 the Detroit Tigers defeated the San Diego Padres, 3-2, to move up to 15-40 on the season. However, many Tigers fans were focusing on another event; the 2003 MLB draft. The Tigers had the third overall pick, and fans were hoping they could use the draft to help rebuild the franchise to glory amidst an entire decade of mediocrity, and in the midst of a historically bad season (they finished 43-119, the most losses in regular season history). Three years later, the 2006 Detroit Tigers were in the World Series, having swept the Oakland A's in the ALCS......no thanks whatsoever to their 2003 draft. In fact, the only thing worse than their god awful 2003 season may have been their 2003 draft, which has to go down as one of the worst individual team drafts in history.

The Tigers drafted 50 players in the 2003 draft. Of those 50, seven played in the major leagues. Of those seven, only two had a WAR greater than 0. Those two are Dustin Richardson (39th round pick, 0.4 WAR) and Dusty Ryan (48th round pick, 0.1 WAR). Let me reiterate that; only two of the 50 players had a positive WAR in the major leagues, and they were selected 1150th overall and 1405th overall. Yowza. Here's a list of all seven of the players who made it to the Major Leagues from that draft:

Round 2, pick 40: Jay Sborz, RHP. 1 game, -0.2 WAR
Round 3, pick 70: Tony Giarratano, SS. 15 games, -0.3 WAR
Round 7, pick 190: Virgil Vasquez*, RHP. 19 games, -1.1 WAR
Round 11, pick 310: Brian Rogers*, RHP. 13 games, -0.3 WAR
Round 16, pick 460: Jordan Tata, RHP. 11 games, -0.4 WAR
Round 39, pick 1150: Dustin Richardson*, LHP. 29 games, 0.4 WAR
Round 48, pick 1405: Dusty Ryan, C. 27 games, 0.1 WAR

*Played for other teams

115 Major League games played, a -1.7 WAR between all of them. No matter how you spin it, this draft was a colossal bust for the Tigers.

The Tigers 2003 draft woes started right at the top, after they selected Wake Forest junior right-hander Kyle Sleeth with the third overall pick. Sleeth had just polished off an incredible college career at Wake Forest, but he didn't sign with the Tigers until August, meaning he didn't debut in the minors until 2004. Sleeth was ranked as the #36 prospect in all of baseball prior to his first pro season, but injuries and ineffectiveness meant he was out of baseball by 2007. Sleeth finished with a 6.30 ERA across 3 MiLB seasons, none above AA. Fellow first round selections taken after Sleeth include Nick Markakis, John Danks, Aaron Hill, Carlos Quentin and Adam Jones.

Rounds two and three belonged to Jay Sborz and Tony Giarratano, both of whom made the Major leagues for the Tigers, playing in a combined 16 games with a -0.5 WAR. In fact Sborz only threw 2/3 of an inning in the Majors, giving up a spectacularly bad five Earned Runs on three hits and two hit batters. Scott Baker and Andre Ethier went in the second round, and Shawn Marcum, Sean Rodriguez and Matt Harrison all went in the third.

Round four was a high school righty named Josh Rainwater (amazing name) who pitched all the way until he was 28, but never at the MLB level. Michael Bourn and Jonathan Papelbon followed.

This could continue, but you get the point. I understand that the MLB draft in particular is a complete crap shoot, and that first round picks bust with regularity. However, to see absolutely none of the 50 players selected have any level of success is alarming, especially when you consider how quickly the team turned it around. Was the coaching in the minor leagues poor? Did they have inferior scouting? Was it just extremely unlucky? Who knows! But at least they fared better in the first round the following year, when they took another high profile college righty with the 2nd pick, Old Dominion's Justin Verlander.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

HOF Congrats and notes

Last week, three MLB legends got a phone call informing them that they will be enshrined in Cooperstown at the National Baseball Hall of Fame. One player had a short wait, another a medium (but longer than it should have been) wait, and another a long, long wait. But I am sure for each of Ivan Rodriguez, Jeff Bagwell and Tim Raines, the feeling of elation and joy is the same.

Congratulations to the greatest catcher of all time not named Johnny Bench, the greatest (modern) lead off hitter of all time not named Rickey Henderson, and a top 5 first baseman of all time for their accomplishments, and induction. Here are a couple more of my reactions to the voting this year:

Trevor Hoffman and Vladimir Guerrero

422 members of the BBWAA submitted a ballot this year, and Trevor Hoffman was left only five ballots short of induction. He is basically a lock to go in next year, assuming voters who selected him this year continue to select him next year, and new voters select him at a high percentage (which they did last year). Likewise, Guerrero fell only 15 votes short in his first year on the ballot, and will very likely hear his name called next year. Both are deserving candidates, but I would argue there are players on the ballot at their respective positions who are getting far less support, yet are as, if not more, deserving...

Billy Wagner and Larry Walker

I could write a huge blog comparing Larry Walker and Vlad, but Fangraphs beat me to it so I'll leave it up to the pros. A few sparknotes for the lazy:

WAR: 68.7 (Walker) vs. 54.4 (Guerrero)
JAWS: 58.6 (Walker) vs. 50.2 (Guerrero)

Walker loses out on most counting stats (less HR, RBI, hits) but that is mostly because of a shorter career, and more time spent injured during his prime.

The Coors field effect is what is hurting Walker's vote totals (he received 21.9% last year, still a long ways away from induction). I wrote a blog detailing this more here, if anyone is interested. Point is, Larry Walker should be in the Hall of Fame, and his vote totals, while growing, do not appear to be heading that direction, which is a shame.

If you read my post last month where I talked about how I would handle voting for the 2017 HOF class, you saw that I narrowed my last vote down between Trevor Hoffman and Billy Wagner, and gave the edge to Hoffman despite some inferior numbers to Wagner (more info here). I still stand by that decision, but it is disheartening to see Hoffman earn 74% of the vote while Wagner gets 10.2%, when their careers are very close in merit. Had Hoffman gotten in this year, I think we would see an uptick in votes for Wagner, but since he did not I think a lot of voters will be in a similar position again next year. It's possible after Hoffman does go in that Wagner's totals will grow, but 75% seems like a pretty steep climb for the lefty. Maybe he will get some attention on the Veteran's Comittee years down the road.

The steady rise for Edgar Martinez

Edgar Martinez jumped up again this year, after going from 27% to 43% a year ago, he climbed again, this time all the way up to 58%, ahead of Bonds and Clemens, as well as Mike Mussina (51%, up from 43% last year) and Curt Schilling (45%, down from 51.3 last year). Edgar has two years left on the ballot, but is in almost the exact same position that recently inducted Tim Raines was in, who had 55% with two years remaining and got in this year with 86% of the vote. I think Edgar will climb again next year, likely into the mid to high 60's, and will finally hear his name called in 2019. It's too long to wait for the greatest DH of all time, but at least he will finally get what he deserves, a plaque in Cooperstown.

Mike Mussina has seen another large jump as well, and with six years still remaining on the ballot for him, I feel much more confident about his likelihood of receiving induction.

The rising vote totals for Bonds and Clemens indicate a shift in voter attitudes towards PED users, and could squeeze some deserving candidates off some ballots, as long as the 'rule of 10' still prevents voters from voting for more than 10 candidates. However, once they get inducted we should see many of the players who are hanging out on the ballot start to see their totals climb. Edgar and Mussina will make it, Schilling likely will as well, but guys like Fred McGriff, Jeff Kent, Gary Sheffield, and the above mentioned Larry Walker and Billy Wagner might be SOL.  It also doesn't help a few of the deserving candidates who got bumped from the ballot after only one year, such as Jim Edmonds and Kenny Lofton (thankfully, there was no one in that category this year, as the highest vote getter under 5% was Jorge Posada, a fine player worthy of consideration, but not enshrinement). In my opinion, in order to avoid having a lot of deserving candidates out of the Hall, the Veteran's Committee is going to have to get busy adding some of the talent the BBWAA isn't able to vote in.

The class of 2018 

With three new players going in this year, and one player (Lee Smith) falling off the ballot, quite a few voters have 3/4 new spots on their ballot for next year. At first glance, this is great news for the holdovers who need more votes, but a new class of first time eligible ballplayers next year is going to make that tough. Joining the ballot next year will be Chipper Jones, a near lock for first ballot induction, Jim Thome, whose 600+ home runs and lack of steroid suspicion should get him in, if not in one year than likely soon, Andrew Jones, an elite fielding center fielder with over 400 home runs, who would be a lock if he hadn't fallen apart in his 30's, but who still will gain some consideration, Scott Rolen, a sabermetrics darling who never quite reached the offensive milestones, but his defense and WAR will gain him votes by newer voters, and Omar Vizquel, the second greatest defensive SS of all time who also amassed over 2800 hits and 400 steals. Toss Johnny Damon and Johan Santana (who had a six year peak rivaling Sandy Koufax) into the frey and you have a very loaded, very challenging ballot to navigate.

I personally haven't decided exactly how I'll vote next year. I am gaining three slots on my ballot, but I know Chipper will get one, Thome will get another, and I think Vizquel/A. Jones/Santana are probably all deserving, and possibly Rolen as well. I also left McGriff/Wagner/Kent off my ballot last year, and still haven't voted for Bonds and Clemens. It will be tricky to determine which ten are most deserving from this ridiculous class. Who knows, maybe by December of next year the rule of 10 will be abolished, and I'll be able to toss all the names on the ballot I think are deserving, as well as first timer Jamie Moyer, who will hit the ballot next year.

Congrats again to Pudge, Bags and Rock, and I look forward to congratulating a few more candidates next year as well!

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Arthur Rhodes Appreciation Post

Tomorrow, the Baseball Hall of Fame will open up their hallowed gates for the class of 2017. It looks like we will have two new Hall of Famers, as former Astros slugger Jeff Bagwell and speedster Tim Raines appear to have gained enough votes for enshrinement. Ivan Rodriguez, Vladimir Guerrero and Trevor Hoffman all look like they will be very close, and it's possible one or more of them get inducted as well. However, that means there will be 30 or so players who DON'T get inducted this year, many of whom this will be their first, and last, time on the ballot. But before these players fade back into anonymity, I want to focus on one in particular, a player who won't (or at least shouldn't) get any votes for the Hall of Fame, but has always been a personal favorite of mine. That player is former Baltimore, Seattle, Cincinnati, Philadelphia, St. Louis (deep breath), Oakland, Texas, Cleveland, and Florida lefty Arthur Rhodes.

To be clear, this isn't going to be a blog advocating for Arthur Rhodes and the Hall of Fame, like most of my blogs are. Non-closing relief pitchers are probably never going to be in the Hall, unless of course they make their own relief pitcher Hall of Fame, in which case Rhodes is a first ballot guy. 

8 teams and 3 million years ago when Rhodes came up with the Orioles, they tried him out as a starting pitcher. He started 61 games over four years with the O's, with less than stellar results. Although he did manage to throw 5 complete games, (3 of them shutouts) his 18-22 record, 5.81 ERA, 1.58 WHIP, and 1.46 K/BB ratio didn't inspire a lot of confidence, so they tried him in relief. The rest, as they say, is history. Rhodes threw 839 games and 865.2 innings out of the pen, with a much more respectable 3.43 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 2.62 K/BB ratio, and 9.3 K/9.

Rhodes ended up pitching in 900(!) games in his 20 year career, good for 25th all-time, and sixth all-time among lefties. Only Jesse Orosco, Mike Stanton, John Franco, Dan Plesac and 'Everyday' Eddie Guardado threw more games than Arthur Rhodes from the left side.

Similarly, Rhodes is 21st all time in K/9, and 12th all-time among lefties. Seven of those lefties are still active, and therefore likely to see their K numbers decline. The five retired lefties who have a higher K/9 than Rhodes are Randy Johnson, Sandy Koufax, Sam McDowell, Johan Santana and Dan Plesac. The case for Arthur Rhodes as the best left-handed reliever of all time is a stretch, as Billy Wagner has that on lock down, with Dan Plesac and John Franco not too far behind. However, the case as the best LOOGY of all-time is a little more wide open.

In fact, taking a look at left handed relief pitchers who had over 500 appearances, but weren't closers, Rhodes stacks up very well. Here's a small chart: (Stats are only as relievers)

Rhodes                 3.43 ERA   1.20 WHIP   9.3 K/9    15 WAR     .221/.297/.349 against
Orosco                  3.12 ERA  1.26 WHIP   8.2 K/9   22.9 WAR   .222/.308/.335 against
Stanton                 3.93 ERA  1.35 WHIP   7.2 K/9   13.8 WAR   .258/.327/.378 against
Assenmacher        3.50 ERA  1.32 WHIP   8.5 K/9   13.2 WAR   .251/.319/.369 against
D. Marte               3.48 ERA  1.26 WHIP   9.5 K/9    10.3 WAR  .222/.314/.348 against
S. Kline                3.49 ERA  1.38 WHIP   6.5 K/9    9.9 WAR    .253/.333/.379 against
M. Guthrie           3.75 ERA   1.36 WHP   7.6 K/9     9.3 WAR   .254/.328/.392 against

Rhodes finishes in first place in WHIP, BA against, and OBP against. He finishes second in ERA, second in K/9 (to Marte, who threw 330 less games than Rhodes) and second in WAR. His only real competition for top LOOGY is from Jesse Orosco. Orosco is first all-time in appearances, and still had a lower ERA and similar batting stats against him. His K numbers were slightly lower, but he threw in 300 more games than Rhodes, and probably deserves the nod for #1 LOOGY of all-time, although you could certainly argue for Rhodes. And even if you take Orosco, no one else is really challenging Rhodes for second place on that list.

So why is the second best LOOGY, and the 25th most used pitcher of all time, a personal favorite of mine? Well, for starters, back in September of 2001, in the midst of the Mariners record breaking 116 win season, I went to my first MLB game. At that game, I went down the first base line to watch the pitchers throw long toss pregame, and Arthur Rhodes came over and signed a card for me, the first autograph I ever got in person at a game. I was big into card and autograph collecting for a very long time, and I have Rhodes to credit for a lot of that.

Outside of personal connections, I have always been fascinated by players who have runs of dominance, and Arthur Rhodes, between 2001-2002, was absolutely out of his mind amazing. For two seasons, Rhodes came out of the Mariners bullpen and was lights out. During those two seasons, Rhodes made 137 appearances, throwing 137.2 innings. Here are the stats for those 137 innings:

18-4, 2.03 ERA, 0.84 WHIP, 164/25 K/BB, 10.7 K/9, 6.56 K/BB, 208 ERA+, 5.2 WAR.

A 208 ERA+ means that for two years, Arthur Rhodes was twice as good as the average pitcher in the league. Simply amazing. 2001 Arthur Rhodes has to be one of the best seasons of all time by a relief pitcher who wasn't primarily a closer. 68 innings, 8-0 record, 1.72 ERA, 0.85 WHIP, 83 K's and only 12 walks. Rhodes only gave up 13 runs all season. His success that season, along with fellow set-up man Jeff Nelson and Kazuhiro Sasaki, helped propel the Mariners to one of the best regular seasons of all-time. Amazingly, Rhodes didn't make an all-star team in either 2001 or 2002, although he did in 2010 as a member of the Cincinnati Reds, at age 40. (For the record, Rhodes had a 2.29 ERA, a 1.02 WHIP and a 179 ERA+ in 55 innings that season).

Tomorrow will be Arthur Rhodes' last day on the Hall of Fame ballot, but I hope that he doesn't begin fading into obscurity, but is instead remembered as one of the best LOOGY's of all time, a position that is ever increasing in importance in a new sabermetric minded baseball world. He should remembered for his longevity and his period of dominance, and not just for his earring incident with Omar Vizquel in 2001.

Thanks for reading!

Thursday, January 5, 2017

The All-Willie Team

Last year I posted a blog comprising the "All-Dave team", the best historical roster I could make with 25 guys named Dave or David. That team was phenomenal, with a very balanced roster of hitting and pitching. I decided this time to challenge myself a little more, and make the all Willie team. I could have added Will's, or William's, or Bill's, but I wanted to try and make the roster with just Willies. I almost succeeded, I needed a little help at the catcher position but otherwise, without further ado, let's meet the All-Willie team!

Note: This is not just the 25 best players named Willie. In the interest of actual roster construction, I selected two catchers, a utility player, five starters, and a bullpen. There were some players left off the roster who are better than some players on it, but this is the best roster I could construct.

C: William Fischer (1913-1917, 7.0 WAR)

1B: Willie McCovey (1959-1980, 6 time AS, 1959 ROY, 1969 MVP, 64.4 WAR, 1986 HOF Inductee)

2B: Willie Randolph (1975-1992, 6 time AS, 1 SS Award, 65.5 WAR)

SS: Willie Bloomquist (2002-2015, 1.8 WAR)

3B: Willie Kamm (1923-1935, 35.2 WAR)

LF: "Wee" Willie Keeler (1892-1910, 54 WAR, 1939 HOF Inductee)

CF: Willie Mays (1951-1973, 20 time AS, 1954 ROY, 2 time MVP, 12 GG, 156.2 WAR, 1979 HOF Inductee)

RF: Willie Davis (1960-1979, 2 time AS, 3 GG, 60.5 WAR)

DH: Willie Stargell (1962-1982, 7 time AS, 1979 MVP, 57.5 WAR, 1988 HOF Inductee)

Batting line-up:

1. (L) Willie Keeler - LF                (.341/.388/.415, 3 hr, 62 rbi, 38 SB) 127 OPS+
2. (R) Willie Randolph - 2B           (.276/.373/.351, 4 hr, 51 rbi, 20 SB) 104 OPS+
3. (R) Willie Mays - CF                 (.302/.384/.557, 36 hr, 103 rbi, 18 SB) 156 OPS+
4. (L) Willie McCovey - 1B            (.270/.374/.515, 33 hr, 97 rbi) 147 OPS+
5. (L) Willie Stargell - DH              (.282/.360/.529, 33 hr, 106 rbi) 147 OPS+
6. (L) Willie Davis - RF                  (.279/.311/.412, 12 hr, 70 rbi, 27 SB) 106 OPS+
7. (R) Willie Kamm - 3B                (.281/.372/.484, 3 hr, 79 rbi) 97 OPS+
8. (L) William Fischer - C               (.274/.332/.374, 4 hr, 45 rbi) 110 OPS+
9. (R) Willie Bloomquist - SS         (.269/.316/.342, 3 hr, 35 rbi, 20 SB) 78 OPS+

This is a very interesting line-up. 3-4-5 is flat out dominant. With 33 all-star games, 4 MVP awards, and 1656 home runs between the three Hall of Famers, good luck to any pitchers having to face the heart of this order. HOFer Wee Willie Keeler and his .388 career OBP lead things off, followed by Willie Randolph, who brings a .373 OBP to the table setter spot. These two get on base with the best of them, and their speed combined with the power bats that follow should lead to lots and lots of runs. However, the line-up loses some of its luster in the bottom half. Willie Davis was a fine outfielder whose WAR is boosted heavily by his defensive numbers in CF, but he will shift to right for this line-up, bringing his somewhat pedestrian .279/.311/.412 line and a 106 OPS+. Willie Kamm could get on base, but had limited power and speed. And William Fischer and Willie Bloomquist round out the order. There is only one catcher in history named William (our backup is named Willard) who had a positive WAR. Fischer played five seasons, amassed a 7.0 WAR, and was slightly above average with the stick. We will take it. Bloomquist takes the SS position because the only other player to spend any time at SS named Willie was a player in the 50's named Willy Miranda, who played 9 seasons and over 1000 games at SS, but had a negative career WAR and a fantastically bad 55 OPS+. Bloomquist would make a phenomenal utility infielder for this team, but is forced into a starting role by virtue of his SS experience, despite his pedestrian hitting numbers and his -2.3 dWAR. However, the top half of this order should supply enough offense to carry the load for this squad, even if the bottom half leaves something to be desired.


Willard Hershberger (C, 100 OPS+, 2.0 WAR)
Willie Upshaw (1B/LF, 103 OPS+, 13 WAR)
Willie Harris (OF/2B, 79 OPS+, 3.4 WAR)
Willie Jones (3B, 101 OPS+, 25.1 WAR)
Willie Horton (LF/DH, 120 OPS+, 26.4 WAR)
Willie McGee (CF, 100 OPS+, 34 WAR)
Willie Wilson (CF, 94 OPS+, 46 WAR)

There are a lot, I mean a lot, of good outfielders named Willie. They also almost all played in the same era (50's-80's). The outfield is historically where more African-American players have played, and the majority of the hitters on this team are from that era, and are African-American. It's an interesting concept, and it gives this team some depth in the grass, with power hitting slugger Willie Horton (325 home runs) and two speedy CFers in Willie McGee and Willie Wilson. Six OF may seem excessive, but Horton is certainly more of a DH type, and McGee or Wilson can both function in more of a PR capacity. Willie Upshaw had a short career but hit well when he did play, and he will serve as the third 1B/DH player on this squad, behind McCovey and Stargell. Willie Jones almost cracked the starting line-up but narrowly lost out to Willie Kamm. Jones has more power, and could be inserted into the line-up and they wouldn't miss a beat. Willard Hershberger is the only player on this team whose first name doesn't end in E or Y, but he is necessary to include as a backup catcher. The last roster spot was a toss up between Willie Greene and Willie Harris, but ultimately I went with Harris because he has more experience in the MIF. He didn't play much at SS in his career, so any rest for Bloomquist could compromise the defense. Willie Montanez and Willie Aikens were both fine outfielders in their career, but miss out on this roster because of the depth we already have in the outfield.

Just missed the cut: Willie Montanez, Willie Aikens, Willie Crawford, Willie Greene, Willy Miranda


SP: Willie Mitchell (1909-1919, 83-92, 2.88 ERA, 17.5 WAR, 104 ERA+)

SP: Willie Sudhoff (1897-1906, 102-135, 3.60 ERA, 14.4 WAR, 91 ERA+)

SP: Willie McGill (1890-1896, 71-73, 4.57 ERA, 10.5 WAR, 100 ERA+)

SP: Wily Peralta (2012-Now, 42-48, 4.18 ERA, 3.3 WAR, 94 ERA+)

SP: Willie Blair (1990-2001, 60-86, 5.04 ERA, 3.4 WAR, 88 ERA+)

It's interesting to me that the 60's and 70's were filled with good hitting ballplayers named Willie, but that finding a pitcher named Willie was damn near impossible. This rotation is pretty darn awful, and the three pitchers atop the rotation were all out of baseball around the first World War. Mitchell, Sudhoff and McGill are all interchangeable as average dead ball era arms, nothing to write home about. Peralta had a 17 win, 3.53 ERA season in 2014, but has only earned 12 wins and a 4.80 ERA since then. At age 27, he's running out of time to turn it around. Rounding out the rotation is Willie Blair, who managed to stick around in the big leagues for 12 seasons despite pretty awful numbers. He was a swingman who made 139 starts in his career, pitching to a 5.34 ERA as a starter. He went 16-8 with a 4.17 ERA in 1997 with Detroit, but was decidedly below average otherwise.


RP: Willie Hernandez (1977-1989, 119 ERA+) 1984 MVP and Cy Young winner
RP: Willie Ramsdell (1947-1952, 107 ERA+)
RP: Willie Banks (1991-2002, 90 ERA+)
RP: Willie Fraser (1986-1995, 90 ERA+)

It seems impossible, but this bullpen might actually be even worse than the rotation. Led by Willie Hernandez, who is easily the best pitcher on this team, the all Willie bullpen will struggle to hold down leads, assuming our starters can keep runs off the board early on. Ramsdell (4.05) and Banks (5.54) were both swing men, and both were actually worse as relievers than they were as starters. That doesn't really bode well for this squad. Either of them could step in and replace Blair, who was better as a reliever, but had over 50 starts more in his career than either of them. Our last arm, Willie Fraser, was at least better as a reliever (3.87 ERA) but his 165 K's in 316 innings out of the pen doesn't look great. Regardless of how you set the pitching rotation up, this team is going to surrender a lot of runs.

Future Additions

Last year, 21 year old second base prospect Willie Calhoun blasted 27 home runs in 132 games for the AA Tulsa Drillers, an affiliate of the LA Dodgers. Calhoun is now listed as the Dodgers 4th best prospect, and could make his MLB debut as soon as 2017. He doesn't project to stay at 2B after making 18 errors in 65 games there, but could still make the bigs as a 3B or a LF. He's undersized, but has raw power and a sweet left-handed swing. Cracking this squad as an OF would require a pretty spectacular career for Calhoun, but if he stays in the infield he could easily challenge Harris or W. Jones for a spot on this roster someday.

Final Thoughts

If your favorite era of baseball was the late 90's, when teams were winning games 9-7 and scoreless innings were a rarity, you would like this squad. It has tremendous OF/1B/DH depth, but is seriously lacking on the left side of the infield, behind the plate and on the mound. This team would probably be good against normal competition, based solely off of the Keeler/Randolph/Mays/McCovey/Stargell top 5, but I can't imagine them faring well against teams like the All-Dave team, or other "name" teams. The pitching is too thin, and the lack of power outside of the big three would hurt this team in the long run.

Monday, December 19, 2016

My 2016 Hall of Fame Ballot

It's time for me to explain my reasoning behind my (sadly fictional) ballot for the 2017 Hall of Fame class. There's a ton of writing below, so I'm not going to waste everyone's time with an introduction paragraph. Here is everyone on the 2017 Hall of Fame Ballot. I have put a line through anyone that I have ruled out based on merit:

Jeff Bagwell
Casey Blake
Barry Bonds
Patt Burrell
Orlando Cabrera
Mike Cameron
Roger Clemens
J.D. Drew
Vladimir Guerrero
Carlos Guillen

Trevor Hoffman
Jeff Kent
Derrek Lee
Edgar Martinez
Fred McGriff
Melvin Mora
Mike Mussina
Magglio Ordonez
Jorge Posada
Tim Raines
Manny Ramirez
Edgar Renteria
Arthur Rhodes
Ivan Rodriguez
Freddy Sanchez
Curt Schilling
Gary Sheffield
Lee Smith
Sammy Sosa
Matt Stairs
Jason Varitek
Billy Wagner
Tim Wakefield
Larry Walker

This leaves me with 17 names. If the HOF changed the rule of ten and allowed voters to vote on a yes/no basis, these are the 17 players that I would vote for, no questions asked. I believe each of these players deserves HOF enshrinement. However, the current rules state that I can only vote for ten players. So I am forced to make decisions on how I want to craft my ballot around this rule.

Voters who feel there is a logjam on the ballot have faced this conundrum a couple of different ways. One voter, Kevin Cooney from Philadelphia, has stated that "with a numbers crunch, you have to set a rule, mine is 'clean guys first'". This is the philosophy I have adopted in the past, leaving off guys like Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa and Rafael Palmeiro. The problem with this philosophy is that it is impossible to know who is clean and who isn't. Obviously a guy like newcomer Manny Ramirez is known to be a PED user, he was suspended twice under baseball's policy, the first player to appear on the ballot who was. But fellow ballot members Ivan Rodriguez and Gary Sheffield murky the water. Pudge was named in Jose Canseco's tell all book Juiced as having been injected by Canseco himself. That seems pretty damning, but is not 100% proof. Is it fair to keep him out because of that? Likewise, most people assume Sheffield used steroids. But how do we know for sure? Is there any way to know with any certainty that Pudge/Sheffield did steroids? Or even that Vladimir Guerrero didn't? It becomes a very slippery slope, and one that I am not super comfortable messing with. I hate that last year I voted for Jeff Bagwell and not Gary Sheffield, when I think they both deserve to be in the HOF. I have no concrete reason to assume that Bagwell is clean or that Sheffield isn't, other than suspicion. But since I cannot fit everyone on my ballot, I don't know what else to do.

If I were voting straight for the ten best players on the ballot, with no other factors at play, my ballot would probably look like this: Bonds, Clemens, Manny Ramirez, Ivan Rodriguez, Vladimir Guerrero, Sammy Sosa, Curt Schilling, Jeff Bagwell, Mike Mussina, and Gary Sheffield. This list is subjective of course, but in my mind that leaves seven HOF caliber players off my ballot: Trevor Hoffman, Larry Walker, Edgar Martinez, Jeff Kent, Billy Wagner, Fred McGriff and Tim Raines. I don't want to leave any of those guys off my list, so I'm forced to rearrange. If I follow the logic of Kevin Cooney, and use my best judgment on steroid users, I can safely eliminate Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Manny Ramirez, and Sammy Sosa. This still leaves me with 13 names. This is where it gets tricky. I could eliminate Ivan Rodriguez and Gary Sheffield and get myself down to 11, but now I am making assumptions about their steroid use without any proof, which feels wrong to me. So what do you do? Leaving off Sheffield/Pudge while voting for Bagwell/Guerrero/Walker feels wrong to me, simply because I do not know that they are clean anymore than I know that Pudge/Sheffield are not. Because of this, for the first time, I will include "likely" steroid users on my ballot. I don't think it is fair to leave them off based on a guess, so they will be considered.

So here are the 13 players remaining, sorted by WAR:

Mussina (83.0)
Schilling (79.9)
Bagwell (79.6)
Walker (72.6)
Raines (69.1)
Rodriguez (68.4)
Martinez (68.3)
Sheffield (60.3)
Guerrero (59.3)
Kent (55.2)
McGriff (52.4)
Hoffman (28.4)
Wagner (28.1)

WAR is certainly not a be all, end all stat, so let's look at this list sorted by the HOFm score, created by Bill James and used by baseball-reference (an avg. HOFer should have a score of 100 or higher)

Rodriguez (226)
Guerrero (209)
Schilling (171)
Hoffman (159)
Sheffield (158)
Bagwell (150)
Walker (148)
Martinez (132)
Kent (122)
Mussina (121)
Wagner (107)
McGriff (100)
Raines (90)

And finally, let's look at HOFs score, also created by Bill James (avg. HOFer = 50)

Sheffield (61)
Bagwell (59)
Rodriguez (58)
Guerrero (58)
Walker (58)
Mussina (54)
Kent (51)
Martinez (50)
McGriff (48)
Raines (47)
Schilling (46)
Wagner (24)
Hoffman (19)

If I combine these three stats, here is this list sorted by highest average ranking:

Ivan Rodriguez
Jeff Bagwell
Vladimir Guerrero
Gary Sheffield
Larry Walker
Curt Schilling
Mike Mussina
Edgar Martinez
Jeff Kent
Tim Raines
Trevor Hoffman
Fred McGriff
Billy Wagner

So now the question becomes, which three do I leave off? Strictly based off of these metrics, it looks like Hoffman, McGriff and Wagner should get the bump. However, I don't buy into the way these stats portray relievers. The impact on the game that Hoffman and Wagner had in their careers is not accurately reflected in a stat like WAR. If I wanted to include one (or both) of them, the next cuts would be Tim Raines and Jeff Kent.

I will not cut Tim Raines, he is in his last year on the ballot and is more than deserving in my opinion. Also, he was very very close to enshrinement last year, and I think has a good chance of going in this year. He will be getting my vote. Kent on the other hand is a player I have cut from my ballot before, and am willing to do again. None of his career #'s really jump out of the page for me, 377 home runs is very impressive as a 2B, but he was a poor defensive player and wasn't really elite outside of his power. I'd vote for him if I could, but I'm okay bumping him for one of the relievers.

If we conclude that I'm leaving off Fred McGriff (which kills me, the Crime Dog is one of my favorite players of all time, but I can't justify him over anyone else on this ballot) and Jeff Kent, that leaves Trevor Hoffman and Billy Wagner fighting for my last spot. I have written about Billy Wagner and his HOF candidacy here, and even compared him to Hoffman. While I think Wagner deserves HOF enshrinement, I will be giving my last vote to Hoffman. While statistically Hoffman and Wagner are very similar (except for saves) I think Hoffman had a bigger impact on the game of baseball than Wagner did, and ultimately that is what the Hall of Fame is about. Hoffman is also likely to receive the 75% needed for enshrinement (he received 67.3% last year and has received 76% of the known ballots so far this year) whereas Wagner (10.5% last year, 10% so far this year) has not seen his support get anywhere close to where it needs to be. Part of me feels like I should vote for Wagner because of this (this is the exact same logic Ken Rosenthal used on his ballot - link to that article can be found here) but ultimately I feel Hoffman is more deserving. Hopefully Hoffman can go in this year so I can use that vote on Wagner next year.

So there you have it, 17 deserving Hall of Fame candidates, whittled down to ten by the BBWAA's insistence that only ten players be voted on at a time. For the record, Ryan Thibodaux is keeping track of HOF voting here, and the results have shown that many voters would vote for more players if they could (4 of the 63 ballots say they would vote for Edgar if they could fit him on their ballot, 5 say that about Larry Walker, and 3 say that about Guerrero).

If I had to guess, I will say that three players will go into the Hall of Fame this year: Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines, and Trevor Hoffman. So far the 63 votes that have been counted as of this writing have Bagwell (90%), Hoffman (76%), Raines (90%), and Pudge (83%) going in. I think Pudge will get less support from the quieter voters, and will fall just short. Likewise, I think Guerrero will fall just short (but over 50%) and Bonds and Clemens will continue climbing steadily upwards. Notably, Susan Slusser, a very prominent Oakland beat writer and former president of the BBWAA, has added Bonds and Clemens to her ballot, citing the recent induction of Bud Selig as her reasoning. If other voters follow suit, which many have, we may see them inch closer and closer to induction.

Next years class presents us with four newcomers who will certainly make an already crowded ballot even cozier; legendary Atlanta Braves third basemen Chipper Jones (a lock for induction), 600 home run man Jim Thome, former defensive wizard Omar Vizquel, and do it all center fielder Andruw Jones. I'll do more research when the time comes, but these four all have very real cases for induction. It should make for an interesting ballot next year, especially depending how many players go in this year.

Thanks for reading! I welcome any and all feedback.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Roy Halladay and the Hall of Fame

Most of my blogs regarding HOF candidacies have been about hitters, and for good reason: They are easier, in my opinion, to make a case for/against enshrinement. I find it easier to compare hitters to each other, and to look at certain HOF caliber stats (hits, home runs, WAR, etc.) and make an informed decision. Pitchers for me are harder to determine. 3000 K's and 300 wins have long been the gold standard, but with 300 wins becoming more and more rare, and 3000 K's becoming a bit easier (and with some starters not being strikeout pitchers) the ability to judge a pitcher as hall worthy is much harder. However, the subject of today's blog, Roy Halladay, is one I have wanted to write about for a while. Halladay was truly dominant for a very long period of time, and his resume certainly makes an interesting case for potential HOF induction. Let's take a closer look below:

For Roy Halladay and the Hall of Fame:

Roy Halladay's ten year reign of dominance between 2002-2011 is unheralded as one of the best modern stretches by a Starting Pitcher in history. During this stretch Halladay started 303 games (about 30 per year), compiled a 170-75 record, a 2.97 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, 1699 K's, 63 CG, 18 Shutouts, a 148 ERA+ and a 4.57 K/BB ratio. During this stretch Halladay ranked:

1st in Wins
1st in complete games (second place had 33, 30 less than Halladay)
1st in shutouts (6 more than second place)
1st in WAR
2nd in K/BB ratio (behind Schilling, who had half the number of games started in that window)
T-2nd in ERA (behind J. Santana and tied with A. Wainwright, in half the starts)
2nd in ERA+ (J. Santana)
3rd in WHIP (behind J. Santana and P. Martinez)
4th in K's

Halladay had a great run of dominance, but his career numbers stand alone as well. Halladay was an eight time all-star, a two time Cy Young winner, and finished his career in the top 100 in K/BB ratio (23rd), ERA+ (38th), WAR for pitchers (41st) and Strikeouts (66th). He led the league in complete games seven(!) times, and shutouts 4 times. In an era where pitchers didn't throw a lot of complete games, Halladay dominated late into games, which also led to him leading the league in innings pitched four times.

Halladay is 9th all-time in Cy Young Award shares, which gives you points for where you placed in Cy Young voting throughout your career. He is only behind Roger Clemens, Randy Johnson, Greg Maddux, Steve Carlton, Pedro Martinez, Clayton Kershaw, Tom Seaver and Jim Palmer. Pretty good company to be in.

The five scores baseball-reference uses to compare players to HOF players are black ink, gray ink, HOF Monitor, HOF Standards, and JAWS. Here's a pic of where Halladay compares to other HOF pitchers:

So as you can see, Halladay ranks right around the average Hall of Fame pitcher. He's slightly higher in Black Ink and HOF Monitor, and slightly lower in Gray Ink and HOF Standards. His career WAR and JAWS score are slightly below, but his 7-year peak WAR is higher. The dude screams "average Hall of Famer" which may sound insulting, but does include the phrase "Hall of Famer," so he's got that going for him.

There is no hard and fast rule regarding Postseason performance being a metric used to evaluate a players worth in the Hall of Fame, but for fringe candidates, any memorable or iconic playoff performances will certainly help (although Curt Schilling and his bloody sock may disagree). Halladay has one of the most memorable postseason performances of the last decade, his no-hitter in the 2010 NLDS against the Cincinnati Reds, only the second postseason no-hitter in MLB history, along with Don Larsen's perfect game in the 1956 World Series. When voters think back on Halladay's career, they will undoubtedly remember that moment, and for many it may be the difference between him getting their vote or not.

Against Roy Halladay and the Hall of Fame:

The above mentioned ten year peak for Halladay is incredible, but the other six years that he spent in the big leagues (1998-2001 and 2012-2013) were not very good. Halladay broke out in 2002 at age 25 with a 19-7 record and a 2.93 ERA in a league leading 239 innings. However, the four seasons before that, Halladay had trouble finding the strike zone and hadn't established himself as a big league starting pitcher. From 1998-2001, Halladay went 18-17 with a 4.95 ERA, a 1.54 WHIP and a 97 ERA+ in 78 games, only 49 as a starter. He eventually corrected the control issue, as he led the league in fewest BB/9 three consecutive years from 2009-2011.

As quickly as Halladay rose to prominence in the MLB, his descent was even sharper. Halladay finished 2011 with a 19-6 record, a 2.35 ERA, 1.04 WHIP and a blistering 163 ERA+. However, his 2012 looked quite a bit different, as he made 25 starts and finished with an 11-8 record, a 4.49 ERA, 1.22 WHIP and a 90 ERA+. 13 terrible starts in 2013 (6.82 ERA and 55 ERA+) and Halladay was done, out of the league at age 36, only 2 years removed from a 2nd place finish in Cy Young voting. Injuries played a massive role in Halladay's decline, but his control declined sharply as well. Halladay walked 35 hitters over 233 innings in 2011 (league leading 1.3 BB/9), but walked 36 in 156 innings in 2012 (2.1 BB/9) and 36 again in 2013, over only 62 innings (5.2 BB/9). It is hard to say whether injuries played a part in Halladay's sudden loss of control, but the impact it had was substantial.

Halladay's closest statistical comparison, according to baseball-reference, is Dwight Gooden (also nicknamed Doc) a great pitcher who flamed out quickly and never made the Hall of Fame. You could argue the same fate awaits Halladay, although his reign of dominance was much longer than Gooden's, although not quite as good. 

Personally, Halladay reminds me a lot of former Yankees great Ron Guidry, a pitcher who had three great seasons, 4-5 very good seasons, and a few mediocre/bad seasons. Neither of them had exceptionally long careers (16 years for Halladay and 14 for Guidry) and both of them truly dominated for a few years, but ended up with career stats that fall short of "traditional" Hall of Fame numbers (203 wins for Halladay and 170 for Guidry, 2117 K's for Halladay and 1778 for Guidry). I have no doubt that Halladay, over the course of his career, was a better pitcher than Guidry, and the stats back that up (Halladay had more wins, K's, a better WHIP, K/9, K/BB and ERA+, Guidry had a lower ERA and more CG, in a different era). However, Guidry lasted nine years on the ballot, never receiving more than 9% of the vote before falling off in 2002 with only 4.9%. Halladay may have been better than Guidry, but better enough to earn 75% of the vote?


I think Roy Halladay deserves to be a Hall of Famer, but man he is really close. I don't think that he is a better pitcher than Mike Mussina or Curt Schilling, who are both on the ballot still waiting to get in, but I think he is slightly better than HOF snubs David Cone and Kevin Brown (and the above mentioned Ron Guidry). Halladay was the best pitcher in baseball for ten seasons, and even though the rest of his career was rather pedestrian, it is hard to ignore what he did from 2002-2011. Toss in a playoff no hitter, and a regular season perfect game, and you got yourselves someone who I think deserves to be in Cooperstown.


I'm not sure why I still even make these, as the HOF voting has been very difficult to predict lately. Mussina and Schilling have not gotten the support necessary to gain induction, although it is possible both will be in by the time Halladay hits the ballot in 2018. I think Kevin Brown was about as good of a pitcher as Halladay was, and he only received 2.1% of the vote in 2011. Guidry is another decent comp, and he didn't even get over 10%. However, Halladay has a legacy with his no-hitter, and I think will garner more attention than those two. Will he get enough to get enshrined? Not based on how they have been voting lately, but I bet he hangs around on the ballot and maybe eventually gets enough of a boost to hear his name called. I wouldn't bank on it happening for at least 5-6 years on the ballot though.